St. Madeleine Sophie Barat
Lived: (1779-1865) | Feast Day: Wednesday, May 25, 2016
The legacy of Madeleine Sophie Barat can be found in the more than 100 schools operated by her Society of the Sacred Heart, institutions known for the quality of the education made available to the young.
Sophie herself received an extensive education, thanks to her brother, Louis, 11 years older and her godfather at Baptism. Himself a seminarian, he decided that his younger sister would likewise learn Latin, Greek, history, physics and mathematics—always without interruption and with a minimum of companionship. By age 15, she had received a thorough exposure to the Bible, the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and theology. Despite the oppressive regime Louis imposed, young Sophie thrived and developed a genuine love of learning.
Meanwhile, this was the time of the French Revolution and of the suppression of Christian schools. The education of the young, particularly young girls, was in a troubled state. At the same time, Sophie, who had concluded that she was called to the religious life, was persuaded to begin her life as a nun and as a teacher. She founded the Society of the Sacred Heart, which would focus on schools for the poor as well as boarding schools for young women of means; today, co-ed Sacred Heart schools can be found as well as schools exclusively for boys.
In 1826, her Society of the Sacred Heart received formal papal approval. By then she had served as superior at a number of convents. In 1865, she was stricken with paralysis; she died that year on the feast of the Ascension.
Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonized in 1925.
Madeleine Sophie Barat lived in turbulent times. She was only 10 when the Reign of Terror began. In the wake of the French Revolution, rich and poor both suffered before some semblance of normality returned to France. Born to some degree of privilege, she received a good education. It grieved her that the same opportunity was being denied to other young girls, and she devoted herself to educating them, whether poor or well-to-do. We who live in an affluent country can follow her example by helping to ensure to others the blessings we have enjoyed.
Madeleine-Sophie Barat was born in France in 1779 in the little Burgundian town of Joigny. She went to Paris in 1795, at the height of the French Revolution, and initially considered becoming a Carmelite. However, her experience of Revolutionary violence in Joigny and Paris led her on another path. In 1800 she founded the Society of the Sacred Heart whose purpose was to make known the love of God revealed in the Heart of Christ, and take part in the restoration of Christian life in France through the education of young women of the rich and the poor classes. [….]